No vote of confidence for young people?

shutterstock_191060654You can easily tell that 2015 is the year of a general election, with political parties slinging mud at one another and vying for votes. They have a lot to achieve in this age of disillusionment and general apathy, in which many people feel disengaged from politics. This problem is much worse in the case of young adults – who “don’t do politics”.

An Ipsos Mori poll in 2010 reveals that the last national average election turnout was 65% of the whole electorate; but only 44% of 18-24 year-olds voted – less than any other age group. So far, there is no real evidence of improvement for this year. Young people have lost interest or don’t care, and are feeling neglected and disenfranchised. If they don’t vote, the political parties won’t make a great effort to win them over – because they are too busy pleasing people who will actually turn up at the polling station to vote.

With 4 million under 25s not even registered to vote, the major political parties are more concerned to promote policies that support older voters. However, many politicians are now overtly trying to attract young people’s votes.

To make informed choices, young people need information. Parents are a considerable influence on young people’s attitudes and voting preferences, but information also needs to be gleaned from school and the media. We live in the Information Age but young people seem to know more about celebrity gossip and cat videos than local, national and global issues. Social media could be harnessed to answer political problems.

Many people say they aren’t interested in politics, without realising that politics is all around them. Scratch beneath the surface, and even the most apathetic person cares about issues that affect them – even if it’s the price of beer, petrol or cigarettes, let alone the NHS or housing, wages, taxes, war and employment. Even if people won’t come to the political arena, politics comes to them. There are issues which deeply affect young people, like the scarcity of jobs and student debt. Skills are being undervalued – with the rise of training schemes, unpaid internships and Welfare to Work schemes, many are expected to work for free, or poor pay. Low wages, zero hours contracts and impossible house prices mean that young people struggle to pay for housing for years – if they can afford to leave the family home at all.

It is young people who face the future created by decision-makers today. They are the ones who will be facing the effects of climate change, poverty, and depletion of resources on a global scale. They will have to deal with the perfect storm of financial, housing, food and energy crises to come. All the more reason why young people should be actively involved in voting on policies and issues that concern them, and making their voices heard.

Will young people realise the importance of making an informed choice – and actually vote?

Politicians tend to care about votes when it comes to making election promises. As long as young people remain disengaged, it won’t pay for politicians to address their issues. Turning out to vote on 7th May – literally voting with their feet – means that their opinions will matter to politicians in future. Young people can become a force to be reckoned with.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.